clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Falcons gave Atlanta a taste of glory, then threw it away in the Super Bowl

Falcons fans are used to disappointment, but it’s because they’ll make you believe first.

Atlanta got suckered into it again. You know, the Falcons. Now that I, a lifelong Atlantan and Falcons fan, have had almost a week to digest the biggest rollercoaster of emotions I’ve ever felt on a Sunday (or any day really), let’s talk about this.

The Dirty Birds shattered the hearts of their fans on the biggest stage in American professional sports. The Super Bowl LI loss was the worst pain we have felt yet, and it’s not even close. It’ll never be matched ... hopefully.

The Falcons looked so damn good through two quarters and change against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Fans of the team — even those like myself who do really well of not getting pulled into thinking they’ll accomplish much — believed that the Falcons could really do it. They showed that they belonged in Houston against what will probably be the best dynasty we’ll ever see in our lives.

And they could actually win the Super Bowl.

Early indications showed just that. After the Falcons stopped the Patriots on their first offensive drive, which was immediately followed by Devonta Freeman’s big run on the ensuing play as he cut to midfield, we were all able to exhale. The Falcons are in the Super Bowl, and did something good.

Thank goodness.

It wasn’t just offensively. The defense looked like a different beast in the first half of the game. Deion Jones ferociously ripped LeGarette Blount of the football in the first minute of the second quarter, it was like he was trying to take the heart out of the Patriots.

Grady Jarrett and the rest of the defensive line were being some bullies. Tom Brady, had taken some punishment this postseason, but the Falcons were legitimately throwing his ass around. It was wonderful. At one point, Jarrett stopped and wrapped one arm around Lewis, threw him to the ground, and hopped over him as he laid on the ground. The defense was sending a message.

Just as the Patriots were driving late in the first half down two touchdowns, Robert Alford cribbed an interception 82 yards. 21-0.

I thought I was going to frame this photo in my house one day. What a freakin’ sight.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Holy shit, they might actually win this game.

If the Falcons win Super Bowl LI, that photo is up there with some of the greatest pieces of art of all time, like the Mona Lisa, The Starry Night, The Scream, American Gothic, you name it. Put it in the Louvre.

Yet even in the excitement that was going on as Alford made his way to the Falcons’ red-painted end zone, that thought is creeping in the back of my mind that they could still blow it. It always is, Falcons fans are programmed this way. Even when they extended the lead to 28-3, you just can’t ever be too sure.

Now when I look at that photo, it just feels like a punch to the gut. Falcons fans really thought we had something there, and it got taken away faster than Bobby Petrino left town. The greatest pick-six any of us ever had the pleasure of watching doesn’t mean much of anything now.

There was one other moment that will get lost in the historical fold forever. It was when Taylor Gabriel shook the soul out of Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler. It was simply too perfect. Not only were the Falcons going to destroy the almighty Patriots, but one of their heroes in building the dynasty got put on skates. That’s the chef’s kiss right there.

After that drive didn’t pan out, that doubt that was festering eventually made its way to the front of my mind. It was eating at all of us when the Patriots narrowed the lead to 28-20.

It’s happening.

But then, Julio Jones. JULIOOOOOOOOOOOO!

What a beast.

Hope crept back. Maybe they won’t blow it this time.

Julio came down with the most beautiful and important catch in team history. Even if only for a short time, we thought that the Falcons may have been saved. They’re about to either find the end zone, or stay in range to get a field goal.

Anyway, that’s the storybook ending Atlanta would have wanted. One last scare, and Julio saving the Falcons in the biggest game in franchise history.

That didn’t happen. Matt Ryan took that sack, and the rest is history.

Watching the collapse should have hurt more than it did, but with each Patriots score, I sat still. Even as James White crossed the goal line for that final touchdown, I didn’t move.

It was like having a family member or loved one in hospice care. You know what’s coming. All you can do is just wait and watch, and hope it isn’t too painful.

Falcons fans had been here before. We’ve experienced the disappointment. The 2011 Wild Card game against the Giants where they scored 2 points, the 17-point blown lead in the 2012 NFC Championship, or starting 5-0 in 2015 and finishing 8-8.

Just nothing to this degree.

Myself and others didn’t have words for it. It wasn’t until I was sitting in Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. on my way back to Atlanta when “Unhappy” by Outkast came through my headphones that I could take a step back and finally start arranging my thoughts. The hook of the song is, “Might as well have fun cause your happiness is done, and your goose is cooked.”

Any happiness about the Falcons being in the Super Bowl was done with. That cooked goose is a Falcon, and all hope was gone as they lost the Super Bowl in the most devastating way ever.

I also wasn’t going to get much out of moping that the Falcons had just lost in the most heartbreaking way in Super Bowl history.

It was the first time I could think about the game, feel even the slightest bit better about it and just think to myself, “Man, that was Atlanta as fuck.” Only the Falcons could blow a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. Only the Falcons could give us the worst loss in the history of football.

But hey, that’s our team.

It’s going to hurt for a while. The pain will never go away entirely. I mean, how could it?

At the same time, in the midst of the wallowing, I can’t help but start to think about the future. The Falcons are set up pretty well for next season. The defense is young, and improved immensely as the season went on. All key pieces on offense should be back. Julio will still be Julio, Vic Beasley was the NFL’s sack leader in his second year. Matt Ryan had the best season of his career, worthy of the league’s MVP.

In the NFL, Super Bowl appearances don’t necessarily translate to success the following season.

This is what we do, though. We get suckered back in to the Falcons. Year in, and year out. We think things can be better, things can be good.

It’s why we already can’t wait for next season. It’s a vicious cycle.